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Review of  Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching

Reviewer: Mae Wlazlinski
Book Title: Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching
Book Author: George Braine
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 10.999

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Braine, George. (Ed.) (1999). Non-Native Educators in English Language
Teaching. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. 233 pages.

Reviewed by Mae Wlazlinski, State University of West Georgia

Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching comprised of 13
chapters, significantly contributes to the scant literature on non-native
educators of English (NNSs). It is authentic, informative, and accessible.
As the number of non-native English language teaching graduates grows
continuously and their presence in professional circles increases
noticeably, the need to understand and define their place in the role of
English teachers in an asymmetrical society where the teaching of English
is traditionally allocated to native speakers (NSs) is more valuable than
ever. Contributions range from personal narratives to survey and
qualitative studies. Discussions on curriculum, standards and requirements
in English language teacher education programs are relevant. Compelling are
the arguments and the discussion on who qualifies to teach English.
Outcomes of such discussions are central to the validation of non-native
English language educators. Contributors, include well-established, as well
as rising, scholars/writers, all non-native English language educators from
diverse geographical origins and linguistic backgrounds. They articulate
their concerns and their struggles, arguing sociopolitical issues and
discussing implications for teacher education. All have very important
messages for both NS and NNS English language academics and educators. For
the NSs, the contributors provide insights into the needs of NNSs that
teacher education programs must address as well as practical information
about the implementation of such programs, the strengths that NNSs bring to
the profession and into their classrooms, and a most important exhortation
to examine the debilitating effects of "linguistic imperialism" and the
"birthright mentality" in the ELT profession. For the NNSs, they might hear
similar voices and see their own struggles and triumphs mirrored in the
contributors' autobiographical narratives. Above all, this book brings home
the realities of a non-native English language educator status as
encountered in the classroom, the community, and the profession. Finally,
this book provides an indispensable resource for L2 students, teachers,
teacher educators, and researchers interested in non-native English
educators, second language acquisition and research, and TESOL curriculum
design and implementation.


Chapters in Parts I and II focused on personal histories and literacy
biographies. Here, the contributors delineated the challenges to their
legitimacy, competency, and credibility as English language educators
because they are non-native speakers. As they argued sociopolitical issues,
they speak directly to all non-native educators who similarly find
themselves marginalized and often discriminated against in the profession
that they trained for. Amin (chapter 7) urges that unspoken assumptions
about who is a valid ESL teacher which is inextricably tied to the larger
societal issues such as power relations, distribution of scarce resources,
and social status of language users be addressed and delineated, hopefully
to facilitate the legitimacy of non-White teachers.
In chapter 1, Jacinta Thomas makes use of her own experiences to
illustrate how the "native language fallacy" undermines her credibility as
an English language practitioner. She exposes the covert and overt
discriminatory practices against NNSs like herself. In hiring practices,
NNSs regardless of qualifications are excluded in favor of NSs. In ELT
organizations, there is lack of visibility or absence of representation of
NNSs, e.g., academic journals, executive boards, etc. In classrooms, NNSs
are condemned without trial, so to speak by students. Thomas describes how
she is rejected outright by students who judge her qualifications by the
color of her skin. This resonates with other NNS teachers' experiences
which undoubtedly leave one insecure, powerless, and debilitated. NNS
academics certainly share the pain of Thomas who writes: "This makes me
apologetic, nervous about my ability to succeed and even lead to a kind of
paranoia born of experience" (10). She adds, "The same type of uncertainty
follows me as I encounter some of my NS colleagues and as I enter every
class. It is my baggage" (10). Thomas also complains about the
misconception/assumption of lower grading standards for non-native
students, hence undermining the accomplishments of NNSs, both students and
Finally, Thomas points out the unique perspective that NNS teachers bring
to their classrooms: "They've not only recognized but have experienced how
high the stakes are when an individual struggles to acquire, not just any
language, but a language of immense power. Having been there, we cannot
only empathize with the students but share our stories as well" (12).
In chapter 2, George Braine exposes several factors to the
uneveness of the playing field for NS and NNS. Whereas academic materials
and resources in ELT training are easily accessible to EL academics, teachers,
and students in North America, whereas positions of power in editorial boards
and professional organizations normatively belong to NSs, NNSs in the
periphery countries suffer from lack or scarce good quality resources, and
have very slim chance to publish in Center journals (a requirement for
professional advancement) which are governed by NSs' rules. As Braine
points out, it is ironic that the affirmation of diversity and
multiculturalism brought by NNS students into NS classrooms, is not
extended to NNSs teachers who are penalized for the same reason. Braine,
like Thomas, exposes the exclusionary preference for NSs over NNSs
regardless of training and education as evidenced in his experiences being
discriminated against because of his minority NNS status.
In chapter 3, Ulla Connor focuses on how to help ESL writers like
herself and provides practical writing strategies. Through literacy
autobiography which is a means of sharing one's recollection of
childhood memories about learning to read and write, and in her
case, my recollections dealt with the struggles and triumphs of
writing in English as a second language" (29), she
demystifies competent writing. She recalls personal events and
describes conditions that have contributed to her development as a
competent and confident writer of English. She describes how her fierce
determination to master the principles of rhetorics and to succeed as an
academic writer made her seek writing assistance and soak in lessons in
style, content, and language from successful academic L1 writers persist
ently and continuously. She extols the virtue of collaboration in writing
and publishing with L1 mentors and colleagues.
In chapter 4, Xiao-ming Li challenges the explicit or implicit assumption
that a non-native English teacher has a questionable cultural and
linguistic identity and professional credibility. On the contrary, she sees
her outsider status as a source of authority than an indication of
incompetence (51). Citing evidences from her own life, she has convincingly
argued that non-natives are "compensated with a larger richer repertoire of
pedagogical, linguistic, and cultural knowledge that only
between-the-worlds residents are privy to" (44).
In chapter 5, Claire Kramsch and Wan Shun Evan Lam examine the role
textuality plays in the native non-native relationship and the effect
written language has on the development of a learner's social and cultural
identity. They explain that instead of using writing as a means to
socialize the non-natives into the ways of standardized natives, the
written language can offer the opportunity to express human thoughts and
feelings that non-native speakers have experienced particularly acutely.
Through journal writing, reflections and diary writing about their
relationship with native speakers using English, non-native speakers are
offered what Kramsch and Lam call the "textual identities of the third
kind experience" allowing "a sense of security that the written medium
provides non-native speakers" (71).
In chapter 6, A. Suresh Canagarajah questions gatekeeping practices in
employment in a country whose graduate programs in TESOL benefit from large
enrollment from many countries. He argues that the notion of the ideal
teacher of English as a native speaker is a lame rationalization for the
hidden economic, ideological, and political motivations which are congruent
with the maintenance of a societal power structure that has historically
subordinated minority groups. Inversely, as Cavanarajah cogently discusses,
non-native speaker teachers bring irrefutable pedagogical and linguistic
strengths to the profession. By linguistic principles, such as (1) all
languages and dialects are of equal status, (2) accents and pronunciation
are only surface features of one's language competence, (3) a language can
have several variants, in this case, world Englishes, the superiority of
the native speaker is a fallacy. Besides, the argument native teachers make
good teachers does not have any pedagogical basis. On the contrary, studies
have shown that non-native teachers because of their second language
learning experiences prove to be sensitive and responsive to the affective,
linguistic, and academic needs of their students. Also promoted by their
second language experiences is the development of a high level of
metalinguistic awareness that lends well to sound teaching strategies.
Canagarajah posits that what can certainly benefit students and the
profession is flagrantly ignored for the economic and political
entrenchment of the native speakers, mainly the dominant majority group.
Canagarajah also exposes the reality in the ELT employment in the
Periphery where native speakers also reign supreme. When standards are set
by native speakers and latest developments in teaching methodologies and
materials are exported to the Periphery, there is a great chance that they
are not relevant to the existing conditions in the Periphery ELT
enterprise. With all the inequities caused by the native speaker fallacy,
Canagarajah asks to debunk the fallacy and clamors for "free competition,
open sharing of products and ideas, open employment prospects for both
Center and Periphery ELT professionals" (88).
In chapter 7, Nuzhat Amin explains that to be referred to as a non-native
speaker of English is disempowering as an ESL teacher because "the
referrent of the ESL classroom is the (White) native speaker" (96) and the
"White accent" as the constructed norm. Worse is the case of non-White
minority immigrant women who by dominant group's standards are more
unauthentic because they speak English with "nonstandard accent", they are
non-White, and they are women -- all of which put them in subordinated
position. Amin, through her experience and those of the 5 minority
immigrant teachers in her research, describes how ESL students' biases and
attitudes towards minority ESL teachers retard, if not hinder them, from
making progress in their profession. Amin poses that students with
established biases against non-White minority teachers continually judge
and adversely compare them with White teachers. Referring to existing
literature, Amin uses narratives of non-White teachers who describe how
they are continuously challenged by questions students ask to snare them
into making mistakes or acknowledging insufficient linguistic knowledge in
order to discredit them.
In chapter 8, Masaki Oda contends that the power wielded by native speaker
teachers of English is unjustifiably strong even in EFL settings. In the
case of JALT, the TESOL affiliate in Japan, where one expects that it is
more efficacious to maintain a bilingual policy in administration,
information dissemination, conferences, everything leans towards exclusive
use of English. This is no surprise considering that 100% of the members of
the highest decision-making body are NSs. Oda disputes the unspoken
expectation for members to have an advanced level of English proficiency,
so they can access materials and programs, partake of the opportunities for
professional advancement, or participate in the day to day affairs of an
organization whose membership includes EFL, French, and Japanese as a
second language teachers. The organization's exclusive support of English,
according to Oda, bolsters the false superiority of the native speaker
teacher which contradicts common sense and educational research findings
that NNS teachers are experts of the local culture, understanding tacit
assumptions in terms of expected behaviors that NS may not be privy to or
do not care to validate. As such, they are likely to be more effective in
the classroom.
Findings from empirical research provide insights into practical concerns
of NNS teacher-trainees and what all these imply for teacher education is
cogently discussed by contributors in Part III of the book.
In chapter 9, Keiko Samimy and Janina Brutt-Griffler describe a TESOL
education program that offers a graduate seminar in which NNS students read
about and discuss issues related to NNSs in the profession. They report on
the results of a study that further examines the NNS and NS teachers
dichotomy by asking: do the participating teachers recognize or acknowledge
the difference and to what do they attribute the difference. The
quantitative results show that participants acknowledge the differences in
teaching styles but in no way are NNS inferior in knowledge and skills from
the NS. They point out that the issue is not to make NNSs like the NSs.
Instead, they suggest that teachers should be trained to be effective
teachers regardless of their NNS status. The question according to them is
"How qualified is the individual as an EFL teacher?" which shifts the
emphasis from who you are to what you know. They propose that in TESOL
methodologies, more emphasis should be placed on the multidimensionality
and expertise than on nativeness or authenticity and that a special course
or seminar needs to be added to the existing curricula in order to discuss
specific issues and concerns related to ELT professionals from diverse
cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Such a course would benefit both NS
and NNS TESOL graduate students.
In chapter 10, Lia D. Kamhi-Stein reports the scarcity of information
regarding how teacher preparation programs incorporate curricula related to
non-native professionals in the field. She stresses the responsibility of
NNS teacher educators to "become agents of curriculum change" (157).
Through a cross-curricular intervention program that she has developed,
Kamhi-Stein believes that teacher educators in TESOL programs can
significantly influence the power structure in the TESOL profession.
Specifically, her program includes integrating NNS issue-related research
and discussion activities throughout the curriculum (e.g., NNS issues
vis-a-vis theories of L2 acquisition, teaching methodologies and curriculum
design, and cultural and social factors of L2 development) as well as
promoting sociopolitical consciousness through involvement of
teacher-trainees in outside-the-classroom advocacy projects. These
experiences prepare teacher-trainees for situations that they may encounter
in their professional lives and for opportunities to turn their
nonnativeness from problem to resource.
In chapter 11, Jun Liu discusses the results of his qualitative study on
NNS teachers' self- perceptions either as NNSs/NSs in relation to their
students' perception of them as ESL professionals and how this perception
impacts their ESL students from two points of view: theirs and those of
their students. For example, teachers do not favor the NNS/NS dichotomy in
classifying them as ESL professionals. Teachers perceive the dichotomy as
disempowering, i.e., indicative of unequal power relations (certain groups
are being subordinated and excluded), sole proprietorship, and an
inadequate classification system to describe their multilayer and
multidimensional attributes. Variability in teachers' birthplace, first
language learned, skin color, age of arrival in the U.S., degree of
nonnative accent, levels of English proficiency, degree of bilingualism,
etc. makes self-classification to either NNS or NS too limiting.
Understandably, these teachers favor a "more objective and realistic NS-NNS
continuum configuration than a sharp NNS/NS dichotomy because it also
implies a process in moving toward one side or the other ..." (174-5) and
reduces, if not obliterates, the superiority ascribed to nativeness.
Finally, Liu hopefully concludes that "If we perceive all ESL
professionals on a NNS-NS continuum, then it is competence and professional
growth that will define their professionalism." (175).
In chapter 12, Peter Medgyes staunchly argues for the distinction between
native and nonnative teachers of English and what he considers the
linguistic and cultural competence of the native speakers that nonnatives
can only work towards. Medgyes identifies vocabulary as an area that
evidences the clear dissimilarity between NS and NNS teachers. Relating
personal anecdotes, he describes how his attained "native-like" or "near
native" competence in English vocabulary only has proven his "incompetence"
or "inferiority" to native speakers. In view of this, he criticizes the
lack of language improvement courses in NNS teacher preparation programs,
particularly in EFL settings, like Hungary where exposure to NS models is
limited and interaction with them few and far between. He argues that EFL
professionals, trained or in-training, can better serve their students if
they have better command of the English language in addition to their good
grasp of teaching methodologies.
I agree with Medgyes in demanding from EFL professionals an excellent
command of English, but his stringent standard of assessing native
competence in terms of vocabulary is not completely realistic nor
objective. In fact, even in ESL situations, setting a standard may
certainly lead to problems. For instance, not all native speakers of
English fully understand local expressions from one geographical region to
the next, so like NNSs, they too will feel inadequate and unprepared. This
brings to mind my quandary in terms of setting parameters of acceptability
in language use. What guidelines should be given to pre-service and
in-service NS teachers in designing vocabulary lessons for ESOL students
and whose standards should they base their selection on? How dogmatic or
prescriptive can a language teacher educator be? Resolving these issues is
not easy for several reasons: (1) linguistically, it is not correct to
teach one variety of English as the standard because it suggests others are
substandard, (2) some ESL professionals, trained or in-training, cling to
the idea that their students and perhaps themselves will not travel outside
of a 40 miles radius, making learning another variety (the standard)
impractical and irrelevant.
In chapter 13, Dilin Liu makes a strong case for the urgency of TESOL
programs to address the special needs of NNS students/teachers in countries
outside of North America, Britain, and Australia (NABA). Liu reports that
"...of the students enrolled in NABA TESL/TESOL teacher education programs,
close to 40% are NNSs. Most of these students will in due course return to
their home countries to teach" (197). He explains that NNS TESOL students
have needs different from those of NSs, therefore creating " a gap between
what they learn abroad and what they face in their teaching back home"
(197). Liu points out that program designers should realize that
methodologies important for teachers in NABA countries may be impractical
or ineffective in non-NABA countries because of significant socioeconomic
and cultural differences (200). Besides, English language students in
non-NABA countries may have different reasons for learning English and many
would have acquired high literacy skills in their native language by the
time they begin studying English. Therefore, Liu stresses the need for
TESOL programs to: (1) teach NNS student/teachers how to use English
idiomatically and (2) promote sociocultural competence to help both NNS and
NS teacher-trainees understand deep sociocultural beliefs and values
underlying surface speech behavior.

About the Reviewer: Mae Lombos Wlazlinski, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor
at the College of Education, State University of West Georgia, where she
teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in TESOL, educational
research, and action research. Her research interests include social and
psychological factors of bilingualism, language shift, second language
acquisition, successful teaching practices in multicultural and
multilingual classrooms, non-native English teachers' successful
instructional strategies, and processes of language teacher education.

Mae Lombos Wlazlinski, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Middle Grades and Secondary Education
State University of West Georgia
Carrollton, GA 30118 USA
FAX 770 836 4643
[email protected]
770 836 6564 (0)